NEO-BELLE EPOQUE, THE CONSERVATORY

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Step through to a time of opulence and optimism, Paris,… circa Belle Epoque era awaits you! Blainey North created a new beginning for 190 seat, Conservatory Restaurant at Crown Towers, Melbourne and the result is a romantic, theatrical space that is intensely detailed, yet so surprisingly light, taking us back to European conservatories and crystal palaces of days long gone.

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I am lucky to have worked from the beginning on such a unique project with Blainey and the talented team. As a lover of classical architecture, it is a rare experience to have an opportunity to bring the study traditional styles into a contemporary context. Restraint and proportion is everything!

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It was a relatively open brief, but the word “conservatory” implies an unmistakable context within grand dwellings of opulent and extravagant eras gone by, and the existing bones of the space spoke of its own possibilities. The six metre high ceilings with windows celebrating the Yarra River and unimpeded city views across, whispered a desire for vertical fenestration of the solid walls.

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The structural columns and beams of the main space were the bones which were adorned with new low slung parabolic archways sitting on stepped corbels and crowned with decorative keystones with a the logo insignia, also by Blainey North. The Calcutta Marble panelling creates a rhythm to the columns and appeases their status with a sense of opulent permanence.

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Vertically formatted strategically placed antique mirror panels reflected the views of both the outside and interior details. The mirrors within the arches at each end of the hall create the illusion of a much longer space, implying infinite grandeur and long days of prosperity. All of this combined creates a lightness ensured by a rigorous focus on a consistent approach to resolving all facets of the design process, by referring back to the initial concept.

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Even the custom carpet, table tops and bespoke chairs give reverence to soft curves of the mother arches, so as not to complicate the simplicity of the design language. The basket weave was carried through the delicate, yet robust detailing of the bespoke chairs by Candida from BN’s amazing furniture designs and adorned in Armani fabric.

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Of the European styles referenced as concept precedents, the softness of Parisian Belle Époque era, shine for me in the final result. Belle Époque was a period characterized by prosperity, optimism, peace in Europe. It was named, in retrospect, when it began to be considered a golden age in contrast to the times of World War I. The above images of the era are Louis XV Alain Ducasse Restaurant at Hotel de Paris Monte Carlo and Hotel Concrode Opera Paris. Images collected retrospectively.

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Painting by Jean Beraud – La Pâtisserie Gloppe on the Champs Élysées – very civilised.

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The only remaining lining that remained from the previous incarnation, was the basket weave timber ceiling panels which, when painted white, references rattan textures often seen in traditional conservatories. The double orb feature pendants, with illuminated deco pods also carry the logo insignia on the ceiling plate.

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The bespoke  designed in-house pendant and wall lights were the twist that combined the traditional aesthetic with a slightly industrial-deco edge.

BNorth-Crown-Conservatory1Point Of View’s lighting design beautifully created depth and gave sincerity to architectural linings with concealed fittings, adding to the drama of the pendants. The space is so well modelled with light, it looks like a computer generated render in photos.

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The challenge of a less grandiose lower ceiling space also presented opportunities for an intimate connection with open show kitchen and bar. It is tied into the main hall with repeated elements, enhanced with additional motifs such as convex/concave fluting to the bar front and  signature badges to the front screen.

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The theatrics of an open show kitchen showcasing many international food offerings was brought to the fore of the dining experience by seeing your meal being cooked and served while browsing, thanks to Chris Love’s flair for kitchen design.

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The gently curving screen facade is reminiscent of French manor doors with custom insignia and leads patrons to the entry portico, whilst allowing some visibility to generate curiosity and desire. There is a sophisticated understanding apparent, in using classic references in a meaningful delightful way in many Blainey North projects.

Sources; Blainey North website photos by George Apostolidis, Brent Winstone photography, Crown website & photos by Justin Condon.

One response to “NEO-BELLE EPOQUE, THE CONSERVATORY

  1. Pingback: Crisp n fresh | so-dishy·

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